Delaware Park Handicappers’ Notebook 2022 Vol. 9

Correspondent Mike Valiante shares his weekly Delaware Park Handicappers’ Notebook, featuring horses to watch, bet-backs, and more.

Each week he’ll give you the skinny on how the races are unfolding, which horses overcame the bias (or profited from it), and who had troubled trips. Plus, he’ll provide trainer and jockey of the week picks, and much more.

Notable races and trips

July 20 – July 23

On Thursday, July 21 the turf course strongly favored early speed. All three grass races were captured by horses who led at the first call. None of the three horses was favored and the group included a 15-1 winner. In spite of the high temperature, which as noted last week can often help horses with early speed, the dirt course played extremely fair the entire week with horses being able to win both on and off the pace.

  • Thankful for the blue-collar horse
    Bemoan racing’s lack of high-end, sticking-around stars? No, thanks. Be thankful, instead, for the blue-collar horses that are the spine of the industry.

July 21

  • Race 8: Claiming horses from the leading trainer, Jamie Ness, can be a risky proposition but Artistic Reason was coming in off of a claim from Ness by the second leading trainer at the meet, Cal Lynch. Lynch gave the horse some R&R and the five-year-old ran a very good race before being passed in the stretch to finish second at 19-1. Look for this Maryland-bred to be even better the next time out, particularly if against similar competition.

Jockey and Trainer of the Week

Jockey Aubrie Green was new to the mid-Atlantic region last year. Green, who got her start riding quarter-horses, performed very well here and at the tough Fair Grounds meet during the winter. Before last week she had earned numerous placings but just two wins at the meet while riding mostly longshots. This week she displayed some of last year’s form with three wins and an additional in-the-money finish from nine rides. She seems particularly adept at making one big move with a horse either early or late in a race.

Similarly, trainer David Mohan had a big week after running cold at the meet to date. He had two wins and a second-place finish with his three starters. He now has three wins at the meet from 26 starters.

Handicappers’ Toolbox

Question: Should you bet horses coming off of a maiden victory?

My advice: be wary of horses who are coming off of a maiden victory at the lower claiming levels unless they are trained by a conditioner like Jaime Ness, who is adept at spotting horses. Be especially wary if the initial victory was accomplished by a horse whose maiden victory was obtained after numerous drops down the claiming ranks. For cheap claiming horses (less than 20K level) who obtained a win after numerous drops I would recommend that their next out effort be at a lower claiming level than their victory, before you consider them on the comeback effort. It is particularly hard for cheaper horses to string back-to-back wins, especially if they are meeting winners for the first time, and a rule of thumb is that a horse probably needs to drop down at least one claiming level from his maiden win to find winners he can beat.

On another topic, I have to confess that I don’t put a lot of stock “hot” or “cold” jockeys or trainers, unless I know more than just their current trend. Can a jockey benefit by getting better mounts after stringing together wins? Certainly, but that in my opinion is more of a function of the better mounts than it is any renewed confidence in their ability. For me when you see a jock like Carol Cedeno, who has a history of success over a decade, I am no less likely to bet her during a “cold spell” unless she is riding injured. Similarly, for proven trainers I don’t ignore their history when they have a losing streak unless I think the horses they have at a meet have largely run out of their conditions.

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